female golfer holding a golf iron

Ultimate Golf Iron Buying Guide

With so many club options, gear, terminology, and techniques, getting into golf can be a bit daunting. When searching for what golf clubs you’ll need to play, you’re sure to come across golf irons. There’s a wide range of irons out there and each has a very specific function. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into golf irons. We’ll cover the purpose of each golf iron, what to look for when buying them, how much you should expect to pay, and more.

What is a Golf Iron?

Irons are the clubs you use on all your approach shots to the green. While your driver typically gets you off the tee on longer holes and hopefully onto the fairway, you’ll use your irons to get onto the green. Since the distance between the tee, green, and fairway can vary widely, there are upwards of seven types of irons golfers use to dial in their shots and make each one count.

Iron clubheads were actually made completely of forged iron once upon a time, but today they are typically made from steel. Modern irons are more lightweight and flexible than their historical counterparts, making them easier to swing for beginners and players with high-handicaps.

Irons are usually designed with a bladed clubhead or a cavity back clubhead. Bladed irons have a smaller sweet spot and are typically favored by more experienced players. Cavity back irons, on the other hand, have a larger sweet spot and are ideal for beginner and intermediate players.

Types of Golf Irons

There are seven total irons that can be included in a complete golf set, though most beginner and intermediate golf sets only include five. Each iron has a specific purpose, which we will break down below.

Long Irons

Long irons consist of the 2, 3, and 4 iron. These clubs are slowly being replaced in golf sets with hybrids that are easier to hit and less intimidating for newer players.

2 Iron

The 2 iron is the longest iron and most difficult to control, which is why it’s not typically included in a standard golf club set. The 2 iron is designed for distance with very little loft. 2 irons are typically used for distances of 190 yards and beyond, depending on your swing speed.

3 Iron

The 3 iron is slightly shorter than the 2 iron with a loft of about 20 degrees. 3 irons are used for distances between 115-190 yards. It is uncommon to see a 3 iron in a beginner set because of how tricky it is to use.

4 Iron

The 4 iron is used for distances between 110-180 yards with a loft over 20 degrees. Though easier to control than the 2 or 3 iron, 4 irons are typically not included in beginner sets.

Mid Irons

Mid irons are the 5, 6, and 7 iron and are often found in most golf sets. The mid irons help achieve a more controlled ball flight and medium distance compared to long irons. Mid irons are great for getting out of tight spots.

5 Iron

A 5 iron is capable of both loft and distance, perfect for shots between 105-175 yards. The wide club face allows for a great deal of control over ball flight but might be a bit complicated for beginners to get used to.

6 Iron

A 6 iron achieves distances between 100-165 yards. A 6 iron can be very precise and achieve a steady ball flight. While it’s very versatile and helpful for getting out of the rough, the 6 iron can be among the least forgiving clubs in the iron family.

7 Iron

The 7 iron is capable of distances between 90-150 yards and produces a high flight and soft landing. When used correctly, the 7 iron is perfect for chipping around the green and stopping quickly without rolling too much.

Short Irons

Short irons are the 8 and 9 iron, but the pitching wedge is sometimes considered part of the short iron set as well. Short irons are must-haves in any golf bag; they are vital for shots that are already quite close to the green. The club heads on these irons are much heavier than the long and mid irons.

8 Iron

An 8 iron is used for shots between 85-145 yards. The high loft and shorter shaft of an 8 iron give golfers a lot more control over the ball than mid or long irons, making this a very forgiving club.

9 Iron

The 9 iron is arguably the most versatile and important iron in the entire family. A 9 iron is perfect for shots close to the green, usually between 80-130 yards. A good 9 iron will allow you to hit precise shots with the correct amount of distance and spin.

Pitching Wedge

A pitching wedge is perfect for shots between 70-120 yards and has a wedge degree of about 45 degrees. The pitching wedge is perfect for spanning the distance from the fairway to the green with as much control as possible.

Learn more: What Wedges Should a Beginner Golfer Carry?

Shop Stix Golf Iron and Wedge Sets →

golfer with full set of irons in bag

Which Irons Do You Need to Play a Round of Golf?

You can have up to 14 clubs in your golf bag, but you don’t necessarily need all 14 to play a round of golf. If you want to have a wide range of irons to choose from to really dial in your distance, make sure you have a 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 iron as well as a pitching wedge. However, if you’re a casual golfer who just wants to get out on the course for fun, you can easily get by with a 5, 7, and 9 iron and a pitching wedge.

What You Should Look for When Buying Irons

If you’re a beginner golfer or a casual golfer with a high handicap, here’s what you should look out for when buying new golf irons.

Cavity Back Irons

Bladed irons have a solid back while cavity back irons have a back that’s been hollowed out. While bladed irons offer greater shot control, beginner and intermediate players will have a difficult time controlling these irons. Cavity back irons have a larger sweet spot and are more forgiving than bladed irons. Therefore, they are easier to control and allow you to hit straighter and further.

Irons with Graphite Shafts

Compared to steel shafts, graphite shafts are much more lightweight, allowing golfers to generate a lot more swing speed with their irons. A heightened swing speed means longer shots as you make your way to the green. Graphite shafts are also more flexible which means they’re much more forgiving than rigid steel shafts.

Cast Iron Club Heads

Iron clubheads are made one of two ways: with forged iron or cast iron. Metal is heated until malleable and hammered until it has the rough shape of a clubhead. It’s then finished by grinding and polishing. What results is a singular piece of iron that has a smaller sweet spot and heightened capacity for flight control–these are also more expensive.

Cast iron clubheads, by comparison, are made by pouring liquid metal into a mold. This technique allows manufacturers to use different materials and make intricate club face designs. Cast iron clubheads are deliberately weighted and designed for more forgiving shots, and they tend to be cheaper as well.

How Much Should You Spend on Irons

Like any golf club, the price of irons can vary wildly. It all depends on the brand, design, materials, and technology used. A high-quality but reasonably priced set of golf irons should be around $100 per club. Iron sets from big golf brands might run $200 or more per club, while bargain sets run much cheaper around $300 for a full set of seven irons.

Whether you’re a beginner or a casual player, we recommend investing in a reasonably priced beginner set that’s higher in quality than a bargain set. These clubs will scale with you as you improve and will last a lot longer than cheap clubs.

Learn more: How Much Should You Spend on Golf Clubs? (Beginners Guide)

Irons vs Wedges: What's the Difference?

With the pitching wedge bridging the gap between irons and wedges, you might be wondering about the difference between the two club styles. The main differences between these clubs are distance and loft.

Wedges are designed with a higher degree of loft than irons because they are intended for short distances. Wedges are perfect for getting out of bunkers, navigating obstacles, and getting the ball onto the green. Irons, on the other hand, are necessary for traversing the fairway and getting closer to the green.

Forgiving Golf Irons for Every Player

Irons are vital to have in any golf bag, whether you’re a beginner playing for the first time or a casual golfer of many years. The most important feature to look for in an iron set is forgiveness. Here at Stix, we build all our clubs with generous forgiveness so you can hit further and straighter–and enjoy the game a whole lot more. We designed sleek, modern clubs that help anyone get into the game and fall in love with it. 

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